Top CFL picks land rookie-record signing bonuses

Sukh Chungh and Alex Mateas. (Photos: David Moll/University of Calgary; CP)

The ink has dried on the contracts for the top two picks in the 2015 Canadian Football League Draft.

University of Connecticut product and offensive lineman Alex Mateas, chosen No. 1 overall by his hometown Ottawa Redblacks, has agreed to a three-year pact with a CFL rookie–record $20,000 signing bonus, sources confirmed to Sportsnet. Mateas will earn over $80,000 in base salary and could make more than $100,000 should he start all 18 games this season.

Winnipeg grabbed Calgary Dinos o-lineman Sukh Chungh with the second pick in the draft. He also netted $20,000 for officially putting pen to paper on a two-year deal, according to multiple people with knowledge of the agreement. And Chungh is in the same range as Mateas in terms of how much he will and could earn to start his CFL career.

Each Mateas and Chungh surpassed the $15,000 signing bonus 2014 No. 2 pick and current Blue Bombers offensive lineman Matthias Goosen received, a figure first reported by Sportsnet’s Arash Madani.

Rookie bonuses and salaries have been trending upwards in recent years for two main reasons: premiums placed on young Canadian talent and a rising salary cap. High-end first-year players are seeing more playing time early in their careers. And in accordance with guidelines set out in the new five-year collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap has jumped from $4.4 million in 2013 to $5,050,000 for this coming year.

A durable, pro-ready prospect, Mateas possesses an impressive football IQ and played against a high level of competition in the NCAA. He’s also the third straight No. 1 overall selection (and seventh in the last nine years) to be represented by Montreal-based CFL player agent Darren Gill. Gill represents both Chungh and the third-overall pick, fellow Dinos offensive lineman Sean McEwen, as well.

Chungh was viewed as the most physical blocker in the draft, and plays with an edge and tenacious demeanor on the field. Blue Bombers general manager Kyle Walters had the six-foot-four, 305-pounder rated as the best lineman in the 2015 class. Winnipeg believes Chungh can come in and compete for a starting spot right away.

When the Toronto Argonauts chose McEwen third overall, it was the first time in CFL Draft history that hogs took up the first three picks. However, McEwen is a math major who has nine courses to go in order to finish off his degree and he’s thinking about going back to the University of Calgary to do so instead of suiting up for the Argos this season. That decision is still up in the air.